Tour du Mont Blanc :: les Chapieux to Contamines

Early rise to damp and cold after rain overnight. Once we’d gone through the usual morning routine, we started the climb to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme.


Val Ferret

Val Ferret

We started off in wetgear because it was raining a little, but soon took that off as the weather seemed to clear and the ascent was pretty tough going. Along the way, we passed a goat herder with a black dog and later spotted the dog high up on the ridge to the east. Amazing sight, but we couldn’t quite figure out what he was doing up that high.

As we got higher, the weather started coming in again and steadily got colder and colder. At one particularily steep, wet and rocky stage we passed a group on the way down with two donkeys. The donkeys didn’t look like they were having much fun. Knowing the Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme wasn’t too far away, most people in the group silently decided to stick the cold out without much gear on. Pretty soon, though, people were really suffering from the cold. Our hands got so cold we decided it would take us too long to find our gloves in our bags to be worthwhile. The refuge was further away than we thought, so by the time we got there we were really very, very cold. A lesson in how changeable the weather is at those altitude.

The refuge itself was one of the more interesting we visited. It was run by a pretty tough and weathered looking family, but they managed to create a really quiet and efficient atmosphere. And the big lump of chocolate cake was seriously good washed down with some hot chocolate. So much so that Charlie looked like his puppy had died when Catherine and I hid his cake. Nobody wanted to leave the refuge given the weather outside and the warm stove inside, but eventually we did.

Ascending through the mist and rain to the col itself, and then descending again, we felt pretty good now that we were all nicely warm and wrapped up again. At one point we had to walk across 100m of snow and ice and, bizarrely, passed a middle-aged man in a singlet and umbrella. That made us feel a tad over-dressed.


Not The Season For Skiing But ...

Not The Season For Skiing But …

Further on down we stopped in at the Chalet de la Balme which Vanessa accurately described as a very “ruley” place. We weren’t getting in unless we ordered something, and we weren’t getting in unless we took off our wet bags and coats. Still, the serving girls were nice enough and we were glad to get out of the weather.

Down, down, down, we passed the Cascade de Combe Noire which we nearly passed by thinking it was just your average bridge over a river. Looking down from the bridge and a viewing platform, though, we could see that is was an impressive gorge with a huge volume of water flowing through it. A nice diversion.

Further on down, we eventually came to the lovely little church at Notre-Dame de la Gorge and waited for the rest of the group. From there we only had a ten minute walk to our campsite outside Contamines, just after the télécabine. At this campsite, we had the use of a communal marquee which was good given the atrocious weather. We all arrived very damp and soggy, but were greeted by Liz with nice warm soup which cheered us up.

That evening wasn’t the most pleasant. We were all a bit cold, damp and out of sorts. The showers weren’t very warm and pretty awkward affairs. Our gear was all wet and the only way we could hope to dry them was using a tumble dryer on site. Teresa cheered us all up a bit with her “I hate camping!”, “I’m joining the hotel group!” and “I’m cold and wet and I want to go home!” outbursts which got us all on the verge of tears with laughter.

Dinner that night started snails – which Omar devoured … we got a bit worried about him – followed by a tasty sausage and bean cassoulet with slightly al denté potatoes for main course and a seriously guilt-ridden chocolatey trifle type affair for dessert. A constant source of conversation was how, despite being on a walking holiday, we were all going to go back fat and demanding food every two hours.

Everybody turned in fairly early to get warm.

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